NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Parents, politicians and activists angry over Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to abolish the gifted and talented program in New York City schools held a protest in Lower Manhattan Tuesday.
The demonstrators say the decision is irresponsible because the program has helped hundreds of thousands of low income and immigrant children pursue their dreams, and not only do they not want the program disbanded, they want it expanded.
Critics say the highly selective high stakes test for 4-year-olds unfairly favors white and American Asian youngsters, as well as families with means, and the mayor says ending the program will expand opportunities for more students.
The exam had typically admitted only about 2,500 kindergartners a year, with 15,000 applicants and approximately 65,000 rising kindergarteners across the city.
It's replacement, called Brilliant NYC," is billed as a blueprint for accelerated learning for all and will keep elementary school children together.
Students currently in Gifted and Talented will remain in their programming without disruption to their learning, and Brilliant NYC will be phased in for grades one through three.
Starting with kindergarten in September 2022, accelerated learning will be offered to all 65,000 kindergarteners.
"The era of judging 4-year-olds based on a single test is over," de Blasio said. "Brilliant NYC will deliver accelerated instruction for tens of thousands of children, as opposed to a select few. Every New York City child deserves to reach their full potential, and this new, equitable model gives them that chance."
The mayor said Brilliant NYC marks the total end to a single test and the segregation of students if they're labeled as "gifted."
All students will be universally screened in second grade by subject area to determine where their strengths lie in order to tailor accelerated instruction.
Students identified as "brilliant" will be mixed with all other students in a classroom, and 4,000 teachers will be retrained to teach them together.
But parents in the program feel the teachers are already overburdened.
The final test was given in April, with families receiving their scores ahead of fall 2021.
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